Jul 1, 2024 2 min read

Pharrell and Louis Vuitton told to pull their socks up in another trademark spat

Pharrell Williams is already involved in trademark disputes with Chad Hugo and Pink, and has now been sued alongside his friends at Louis Vuitton. The fashion company and producer have been selling Pocket Socks, which are socks with a pocket. This has angered a company called Pocket Socks Inc

Pharrell and Louis Vuitton told to pull their socks up in another trademark spat

Pharrell Williams is embroiled in yet another trademark dispute, this time in his guise as a celebrity Creative Director for luxury fashion house Louis Vuitton

Evan Papel, CEO of a company called Pocket Socks Inc, has filed a lawsuit, describing it as a “real David and Goliath story”, asserting that “massive luxury brand” Louis Vuitton “and their designer Pharrell Williams should know better and behave within the law”.

The lawsuit all comes down to a pair of socks designed by Williams and sold by the fashion brand as part of its partnership with the music producer. 

The socks in question have a pocket and are therefore, perhaps not unreasonably, sold under the name “Pocket Socks”. Only problem is, that’s pretty much identical to the brand used by Pocket Socks Inc, which specialises in making and selling… socks with pockets.

“I feel like a small business owner representing others, standing strong as David in this classic David versus Goliath situation”, continued Papel.

Williams’ trademark attorneys are already pretty busy. There’s a lawsuit filed by the producer’s long-term creative collaborator Chad Hugo over the trademark in their collaborative brand The Neptunes. And, in April, Pink formally objected to Williams’ bid to register the name P.INC with the US Trademark Office in various music and merchandise categories. 

While both Louis Vuitton and Williams are named as defendants in this new litigation, you have to think it will be the fashion company that leads on any response. 

The Pocket Socks Inc lawsuit explains how Papel came up with the idea of having socks with a pocket after he had money stolen while traveling in Europe. The idea is that the sock’s pocket can be used for storing valuables when travelling around. His product was originally branded Zip It Sox, with the alternative name Pocket Socks being launched and trademarked in 2012. 

Meanwhile, Louis Vuitton started marketing and selling socks with a pocket as part of its partnership with Williams in June 2023. The products are clearly listed and described as Pocket Socks on the Louis Vuitton website. And, says Pocket Socks Inc, the bigger fashion company's use of that name has “irreparably” damaged its brand and trademark rights. 

As well as trademark infringement and unfair competition, Pocket Socks Inc also accuses Louis Vuitton and Williams of ‘trade dress infringement’. 

Trade dress relates to the overall appearance of a product and can be protected as a trademark where certain features are sufficiently distinctive to identify the source of a specific product. Providing any distinctive features are not essential components of a generic product that competitors will necessarily need to replicate. 

Pocket Socks Inc uses a zip to protect a sock wearer’s travel cash, while the Pocket Socks sold by Louis Vuitton and Williams use a good old fashioned button, which may or may not be relevant here. 

The Pocket Socks Inc socks usually retail at around $20, while the Louis Vuitton Pocket Socks are sold for $565 a pair. Which isn’t relevant to any intellectual property dispute, though there should probably be some kind of criminal proceedings against anyone selling socks at $565 a pair.

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